Following their rescue of several slaves and Corwin’s brother, Dalen, the Furious Five took a break in Waterdeep to rest, recover, shop, and seek healing for the freed captives. While there, they ran into their neighbor, the widow Brianne Bynderath. Her servant approached them in the marketplace and offered a formal introduction. Brianne had been curious about her neighbors, and increasingly interested in learning more after their successful exploits in the Underdark and recovering the dragon eye orb her late husband had gifted Treefall, protecting their community during the chaos of that episode. She was attending to “political matters” in Waterdeep, but was returning to Treefall and asked if they would like to travel with her.
The group enjoyed a pleasant return to Treefall as she entertained them with stories from her past and described the reason she had sought the party out. She needed help locating and recovering some of the treasure her late husband, the notorious Corril Bynderath, had left on their estate. She had grown to trust the party through their dauntless defense of Treefall, and thought they may be able to succeed where others had failed.
The party indicated a willingness to assist, so long as they got something in return. In the end, Brianne agreed to let them have any magical items they recovered and she would keep all the treasure (precious metals in bar and coin form, and jewels of any type). She was certain there would be some of both if they could uncover even part of the famous treasure stash.
Ever the aggressive and savvy negotiators, the party agreed to her terms, but also insisted on a right of first refusal to purchase the Bynderath estate should she decide to sell, and use of the outer structures on the estate for housing Bren’s growing personal army. She agreed to the latter request in exchange for promises of security and maintenance of her property and the surrounding community from Bren’s cohorts, and the group had a deal, at least in principle.
Still wary of a potential double cross, perhaps after being so thoroughly misled by someone claiming to be a Pyrette, they followed Brianne to her estate and enjoyed a meal prepared by one of her servants. After dinner, the treasure hunt began, which ultimately led them to a magically barred and trapped small chamber off of Corril’s personal wing of the mansion.
With Brianne’s significant magical skills, and Corwin’s luck and skill disarming traps, the party found themselves safely inside a small study containing, among other things, a magical desk and painting. The desk held numerous papers, contracts for protection money of questionable legality, and some of Jerimond’s writings. It also held a magical stone and several magic pins. Among the papers, they found references to a gang that Corril Bynderath had run known as the “Brotherhood of the Black Dragon” (or the “Black Brotherhood” for short). With Brianne and Alexander’s magical prowess and much experimentation and luck, the party was able to discover that the painting (of a luxurious clubhouse) was actually a portal that they could activate, and they stepped through into the very scene they had been viewing.
Their surroundings were impressive: a magical crackling fire, beautiful tables and chairs, an enchanted harp that played requests, a haunted board game that would provide an excellent challenge to anyone who wanted a match, permanently lit chandeliers, and a bar at the far end of the room. The four corners of the main room displayed ivory statutes of nude Amazon warriors in provocative poses and holding dangerous weapons (a sword, a spear, a bow, and a whip). The party cautiously explored some adjoining rooms, finding another small office for making business deals, two restrooms with large ever-flowing and always pure fountains, a storage room for foods and wines, and even a secret bedroom chamber, apparently for entertaining “special” guests.
While they explored the ambiance of the enchanted lair, Gofarian continued to search for other secret rooms, and found a closet sized treasure vault. No sooner had he opened it, though, than the four ivory statutes sprang to life in defense of the mysteries it contained. The party was scattered in different rooms at the time and the ensuing fight proved intense. The statutes seemed immune to most spells, leaving Brianne particularly vulnerable despite her considerable skill with arcane arts. The party rushed to her defense, overturning a table and urging her retreat as she suffered enough blows to bring her to the edge of death.
Corwin found himself entangled with a whip; Alexander was desperately searching for some magic, like a shattering utterance, that might slow down the construct guardians; Gofarian dealt some significant damage to several of the statutes but found himself at the precipice as well. Even Bren and his priestess cohort sustained far more injuries than they had seen in some time. As Brianne retreated backward through the portrait that had brought them to this dangerous place, the party thought they heard a muffled scream. They were too occupied trying to save their own lives to investigate, however.
Fortunately, Bren had a magical crystal in his weapon that allowed him to drive back the statues more effectively than most of the party. Corwin was knocked unconscious. Alexander was struggling to do minimal damage while drinking down potions to stay on his feet. As Gofarian found himself drawing what might prove to be his final breath, he slipped into the treasure vault he had discovered to buy time and come up with a plan. Much to his horror, though, once he closed the door, a disembodied Dwarven voice in the darkness (claiming to be the local bartender) started making small talk about the dire battle raging outside!
During the fight, several thought they saw something like a rock flung through the entry portal. As the final statue crumpled to dust from the combined assault of the entire party, they turned their attention back to the portal and the now missing Brianne. Unfortunately, the origination painting back in the study seemed to have been removed from the wall and placed face down on the ground. They could no longer see the room they had come from in the painting that hung in the den where they stood. It seemed they might be caged animals, trapped by someone on the other side holding down their only known exit. In fact, the rock that had been thrown in the room was attached to a hastily scrawled noted that confirmed their fears: “I have Brianne and she will die unless you start handing out the treasure.”
The party agonized over the situation and the mind-bending multi-dimensional problem they faced. Some unknown assailant had them trapped in what could well become their tomb if they did not hand over the treasure that they had nearly perished recovering in the first place. In a sign that he was not pleased with the delay as they debated, the origination painting was slightly lifted and a pouch of choking dust tossed into the room, causing them to cough and stagger for several minutes. A rough voice shouted in that they better start handing out the treasure or Brianne would die and he would leave them to starve and come claim the treasure later. After all, he said, he had already waited and searched for years.
Corwin promised to start handing out the treasure, and as they took bars of gold to the frame of the painting, the party developed a plan: they would use gravity and the differing dimensional positions of the portal paintings to fling themselves out of the room back into the study the moment their mysterious captor lifted the painting enough to try to pull out the bars of gold. The attacker tried to simply shift the painting rather than lift it, but Bren was successful in forcing his way out of the painting portal onto the floor of the study, with Gofarian close behind. Though he took a painful axe blow to his back, once on his feet, Bren and the party were able to quickly defeat and incapacitate the half-orc who had attacked them.
They found Brianne, still alive but bound and beaten, obviously not able to put up the kind of fight she would have had she not backed into her attacker and already been on the verge of passing out from the earlier fight.
They healed her and searched the treasure room, finding vast fortunes in gold and jewels, a magical Eastern dragon flying mount that could be stored as a small figurine, and an intelligent artifact: a mug that contained the spirit of a Dwarven barkeep, skilled at mixing drinks and dispensing unsolicited friendly advice.
The half-orc, they learned, was Worrik Barbora, a thief/fighter and former business associate of Corril Bynderath who had had a falling out with the crime lord. He knew about the treasure and had been hunting for it for some time, often stalking Brianne and waiting and watching for others to get close enough to the treasure that he could then take it from them.
The party discovered that the magical stone they had found earlier was a scrying stone, allowing the viewer to see and hear what was happening in the locations of any of the associated pins. Corril had given those pins to the leaders in his gang to keep an eye on his businesses. Jerimond had clearly crafted a number of fascinating artifacts that had been key to Corril’s financial successes.
Brianne gave the party the promised magical items (the mug, the dragon mount figurine, the scrying stone, Worrik’s magical axe, and the painting and its associated crime lord’s den with various enchanted objects within). The party begrudgingly kept their promise, as well, giving her all the treasure they had found.
Worrik had killed Brianne’s oldest and dearest servant and friend when he invaded the home and followed the party to the painting, so Brianne wanted him to suffer. Also, the party had suggested that publicizing Worrik’s capture might make it clear that the treasure had been found, that security was strong in the area, and justice is swift, thus reducing the number of low life thugs nosing around the Bynderath estate looking for easy money.
Worrik was still alive, so the next day the party celebrated their victory and placed Worrik on display in stocks in the Treefall town square. That evening they sent him with a band to prison in Waterdeep, but word is that the detachment never made it to Waterdeep. The guardforce that had come to take him away at Brianne’s request is now missing and presumed dead, and Worrik is missing and presumed ticked, perhaps bent on revenge, stealing the treasure he has hunted so long, or maybe recovering his axe.